What is it to be a woman?
This has been one of the animating concerns of True Focus, an inventive woman-centered troupe with a strong aesthetic sense led by founding director Vanessa Cate, in its three years onstage.
For this year’s Halloween season, the company zeroes in tight on the question — and rather than finding an answer, they celebrate a labyrinth of mysteries.
In an hourlong series of short pieces, most of them using dance storytelling, we are moved rapidly from tragedy to comedy and back, and we’re always fascinated. There’s a light bit about an invisible man, another about three witches (hello, Macbeth) seeking a virgin sacrifice … but the dominant tone is dark.
At the heart of the show, Cate and Emma Pauly together chant Poe’s The Raven, summoning an austerely erotic Caitlin Fowler. This morphs into Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, with Pauly summoning the devil (Cate) — which then transforms into a dance-tale of the devil seducing a woman (Deneen Melody), who is then burned as a witch.
There are she-wolves (in a delightfully re-imagined Little Red Riding Hood, led by Sasha Snow), wives lamenting absent sailors (or are they sirens recalling their prey?), vampires and more.
Hex can be enjoyed as a seasonal pleasure, ringing the changes of our culture’s lore with lots of beautiful women dancing. But it offers far more: a non-polemic exploration of what it has meant to be a woman in Western societies, and a powerful evocation of the innate gifts — and insoluble mysteries — of the human female.
Hex, by various authors and the company, directed by Vanessa Cate.
Presented by True Focus Theater & Cabaret le Fey, at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, 4850 N. Lankershim Blvd., LA 91601.
Tuesdays at 10:00,
through October 25th.